Where I Come From: My Religious Journey, Part 2

This is part 2 of my post on my spiritual journey. Here’s the link to part 1: https://seekeroftruthweb.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/where-i-come-from-my-spiritual-journey-part-1/
The next event was getting confronted on lust. After the confrontation I mentioned questioning God’s existence, something that gave people a fright. I was told that if I went down that path I’d become a womanizer, get a venereal disease, and/or have a terrible, sexless marriage(but I could have all kinds of blessings if I stayed with God). I’m sure you could guess my decision. I followed the inspiration I received from The Purpose-Driven Life. I was tweaked over feeling coerced until I got praised for having experienced the most growth of anyone in the church, something that was a shock to me! I started reading The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, something I found inspiring. I decided not to go back to finding demons behind every bush(I didn’t see the need to), and I sought to see how religion and psychology can be reconciled seeing God as smiling on my interest.
I discovered a show called Faith Under Fire, hosted by Lee Strobel(whose book Case for Christ I’d been given). With it being a discussion show I got exposed to differing perspectives even within Christianity, so that I was able to form more nuanced views than the Fundamentalism of my preteen/teen years. I had a similar experience with the “Religion” and “Opinion” pages of a local newspaper, as I got to see a diversity of beliefs and actually encounter liberals for themselves, rather than the right-wing straw man arguments. I also started watching Religion and Ethics Newsweekly on PBS, which sometimes does reports on other religions, allowing me an understanding without the Fundamentalist filter. Another epiphany was Strobel’s saying that it’s OK to have doubts.(I’m going to do a post on this subject.)
In a moment of frustration over my horniness, I was thinking to myself “bad karma”; then it hit me that karma can be changed. I remembered the Noble Truths of Buddhism: 1)suffering permeates all existence; 2) Desire(thirsts, cravings) is the cause of suffering; 3) there is an end to suffering, called nirvana; 4) the way to nirvana is the eightfold path. In my reading about Buddhism I found that ” suffering” includes even discontent and frustration. “Birth is painful, death is painful, aging is painful… association with what is disliked is painful, disassociation with what is liked is painful, not getting what one wishes is painful.” (The Buddha). That is something I can relate to! I began to see how the Buddha, Freud, and Jesus combine.(All these things I do that make Evangelicals and Fundamentalists nervous I’m going to call “Fundie-mistakes”.)
Another post on the journey was my discovery of a copy of MLK’s book The Strength to Love at my great-grandparents’ house.(The book is a collection of his sermons.) What appealed to me was his global perspective, his stress on our being human, more than the accidents of race, tribe, nation; his promotion of peace and criticism of war(this was the Bush era[c. 2005], the Hawks were out); it gave me a sense of purpose. In addition my Judaism interest was rekindled, this time without the Fundamentalist filter. I really connected with the greater leniency towards wrestling with the text, vis-a-vis blindly accepting it. I loved a lot of the rabbinic insights; in fact, they helped me to maintain my faith in the Bible. Though I didn’t read them, I found inspiration in the quotes I heard from Martin Buber and Rabbi Heschel.
One day in Borders I flipped through a copy of Jim Willis’s book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. In this book Willis critiqued both sides and introduced me to The Consistent Life Ethic, which is opposition to abortion, capital punishment, war(though there is space for just war). There was also talk among particularly younger Evangelicals of having a broader pro-life platform, including things like anti-poverty in the platform rather than obsessing about people’s sex lives. My knowledge of rabbinic thought even motivated me to support passing out condoms, as, opposing abortion, I saw it as better that if people were determined to have sex, to not conceive and have and abortion.
In 2006 I watched Bill Moyers’s Faith and Reason on PBS, which was a series of interviews with writers associated with PEN(poets, essayists, and novelists — I became and remain a fan.) None of these people were Fundamentalists; in fact many criticized Fundamentalism and sounded the theocracy alarm.(One defined Fundamentalism as trying to force an antiquated model of religion on people today.) I used the critiques as a way to better understand Christianity, to look at it from a different perspective.
It was through these interviews I first heard of A Handmaid’s Tale. Also through these interviews I developed an appreciation for the hip-hop art form. One of the writers explained hip-hop as taking something old as “flipping it”(that is, updating it), something he did with Sophicles’ play Oedipus Rex, and explained Sophicles himself did with an ancient Greek myth. This gave me a model, as I’ve flirted with being a writer from the time I was little. (That’s another post.) I also enjoyed the interview with Pena Chodron, a Buddhist nun.(I may go back to find the interview to find a text she mentioned; perhaps I’ll review it, no promises though.)
I was inspired by the Jewish concept of tikkun-ha’olam(repairing the world), of making a difference. Reading on Islam I read that there’s a concept in Islam of struggling on behalf of the oppressed. I read in The Purpose-Driven Life that God gives us some of His passions that we could speak for Him. I support peace; I like people from different countries cooperating instead of hating each other; I like people of differing religious views cooperating instead of killing each other in God’s Name. I began to think maybe God’s calling me to promote peace and justice. Upon going to Rick Warren’s website I read of his promotion of education to lift people out of poverty. I connected with this, due to my intellectualism. I read that the Hadith say to share your knowledge (quoted in the why I’m here post). Of course I knew all this went against the grain of my church environment. Thus, I hoped to move abroad and once there, pursue these interests.
Well, I have pretty positive memories of this period, and thus will end part 2 in my happy place. (Storm warning for part 3!)


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Christian, freethinker, believer, skeptic, seeker.

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